SINGAPORE: Change is afoot in Yishun Avenue 4, where Singapore’s incoming President Halimah Yacob has lived for over two decades.
When Channel NewsAsia visited Madam Halimah’s HDB block on Wednesday (Sep 13) just hours after she was declared as the President-elect, there was a visible police presence.
Fresh red paint marked parking lots meant for police vehicles, and just outside her corner flat were two policemen checking on anyone who wanted to enter the area. At the block opposite, more uniformed officers were on patrol.
Madam Halimah will be sworn in as Singapore’s eighth President at the Istana on Thursday evening. She has said she would like to stay in her jumbo Yishun flat, which her husband, Mr Mohamed Adullah Alhabshee, said was “as huge as a penthouse”.
On Wednesday, she laughed when asked by reporters where she would live. “I’m still staying in Yishun as you can see.”
Her neighbours are still getting used to the idea that a President will be living in their midst, but they had no doubt she will still be the humble neighbour they know her to be.
“Whether you’re young or old, or a child, she will still talk to you, and take the initiative to talk to you first,” said Ms Irene Song, 64. She said as long as Madam Halimah is happy to live there, they had no objections.
Ms Junaidah Rapieh, 42, recounted how even though Madam Halimah looked to be in a rush one time, she made the effort to greet her elderly mother and ask about her health. “Most of us don’t bother about others when we are rushing, so I was touched by her respectfulness,” said the preschool teacher.
Still, she welcomed the added safety of having a constant police presence in the area.
Housewife Georgina Quek, who lives in a flat opposite Madam Halimah’s block, said it would be “interesting” having a President live next door. But she wondered if it was possible for her to live there, given the security concerns.
Asked about security considerations of her living in Yishun, Mdm Halimah said: “Security issues, I will leave it to the security department. I think they know how to secure the area, but I think it’s a very nice comfortable place. I’ve been living there for many years.”
Neighbours told Channel NewsAsia they often saw Mdm Halimah climbing the stairs to her sixth-floor flat, instead of taking the lift.
The President-elect has said she gets about 45 minutes’ worth of exercise every morning. And while she may not want to move into the Istana yet, it may not be long before she is seen strolling on its vast lawn.
She told reporters: “I think the Istana grounds are very big, so that gives me a chance to walk around and exercise further, and keep myself fit.”